Google Amy's Cooking Adventures: January 2011
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Monday, January 31, 2011

Hamburger and Rice Casserole


Want to know something sad?  This cute little guy:


Seems to have a problem with the dairy in my diet.  So until I wean him (at least 6 months from now) or until his little system matures, I need to eliminate or considerably reduce the dairy in my diet.  Why is this so very sad?  Because I LOVE dairy.  I have been kind of a cranky Mama without milk and cheese. 

Because of this necessary diet change, you are going to see more “dairy free” recipes on this blog and I will be re-making some of my favorites to eliminate the dairy until I can figure out how much my little sweetie can handle.  Also, unlike many other dairy free recipes out there on the internet, these are just dairy free; not gluten, nut, egg, all possible allergen free.  I like my other allergens, thank you very much!

Hamburger and Rice Casserole is a variation on one of my favorites when I was growing up. Yep this is another yummy mom casserole.  However, I made this dairy free by eliminating the “cream of” soups and adding rice milk.  You can always add in regular low fat milk in place of the milk alternatives when you are trying these recipes.


Hamburger and Rice Casserole
An Amy Original

1 lb ground beef
¾ cup celery, diced
¾ cup carrots, diced
2 cups rice milk (or regular milk), divided
2 tsp dry chicken stock
½ tsp dried bay leaf
2 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dried parsley
½ tsp black pepper
Dash of salt
½ cup water
4 tbsp flour
1 cup rice, uncooked


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

In a skillet, combine beef, celery, and carrots.  Cook on medium-high heat until beef is browned and vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, whisk together ½ cup rice milk with the flour until all lumps are gone.  Set aside.

Combine with spices, water, and remaining rice milk in a bowl.

Once the beef in browned and the vegetables are tender, place them in a casserole dish.  Stir in the milk and flour mixture, the spice mixture, and the uncooked rice.  Cover and place in the oven.

Bake for about 30 minutes, then remove the casserole and stir it well.  Return to the oven for another 20 minutes, and stir again.  Cook for a final 10 minutes (for a total of 1 hour) and serve.

Enjoy!
Amy

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pizza Pretzels


My 3 year old is picky.

I mean SUPER picky.  At times, he will refuse to eat mac & cheese, or chicken nuggets, or even pizza. 

I don’t pretend to know what is going on in that fascinating little mind, but I am ever trying to find foods that he will like.  Usually I am sneaking vegetables into his food, but this time, I just wanted a fun, easy meal.  So, I found a recipe for pizza pretzels.  These were pretty quick and easy to make, though pulling the dough over the filling can be tricky (read: frustrating) at times, but it is worth the effort. 

The whole family enjoyed these Pizza Pretzels, especially my 3 year old who adamantly ignored the sauce! 


Pizza Pretzels
Adapted slightly from Multiply Delicious

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp cornmeal
1 tbsp flour
1 tube of refrigerated pizza dough (I used Pillsbury)
44 pieces of turkey pepperoni (approximately)
8 pieces of mozzarella string cheese
1 tbsp parmesan cheese
1 cup of pizza sauce, heated


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Brush a large cookie sheet with1/2 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal.

Unroll pizza dough on a lightly floured surface.  Starting in the center, use a floured rolling pin to roll dough into a 16x10 inch rectangle.  Using a pizza cutter, cut dough into four 2 ½ inch strips.

Evenly place about 11 pepperonis on each dough strip, leaving 1 inch on each end uncovered.

Cut each string cheese in four pieces, cutting in half the long way and then the short way.  Place 8 cheese quarters on top of the pepperoni on each cheese strip, overlapping where necessary.

Bring the sides of each dough strip together over the pepperoni and cheese, stretching to cover the fillings and tightly pinch together.  Use some of the excess dough from the ends to patch, if needed.  Pinch ends to seal.  Lightly roll and shape into logs.

To make the pretzel shape, form each log into a U-shape, then cross the ends and press.  Place pretzels on the prepared cookie sheet.  Brush pretzels with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

Bake 13-17 minutes or until pretzels are golden brown.  Serve with warmed pizza sauce for dipping.

Makes 4 pretzels

Enjoy!
Amy

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Red Velvet Cookies


Beet juice or puree has historically been used as a natural food dye.  The bright red color we associate with red velvet cakes/cookies/etc, doesn’t need to come from a bottle.  Instead, I give you a healthier and dye-free version of a red velvet cookie, one that you won’t mind even your littlest sweetie eating!


Red Velvet Cookies
An Amy Original

½ cup Crisco
½ cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
½ cup + 2 tbsp brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup beet puree
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat Crisco and sugars together

Add the egg, beat until very fluffy.

Add the beat puree, baking soda, and vanilla and mix.  Slowly add in the flour until desired consistency (you may need more or less depending upon how watery your beet puree is).

Spoon cookies onto a cookie sheet using a 2 tbsp cookie scoop.  Bake 8-10 minutes

Yields: about 32 cookies


Beet Puree

1-2 bunches of beets
Water


Cut stems off of the beets.  Run under water to remove any dirt (scrub in needed).  Put the whole beets in a medium saucepan and cover completely with water.  Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

Turn heat to medium and continue boiling the beets for 30 minutes or until beets are tender and can be pierced easily with a fork.

Using a slotted spoon, remove beets from the water.  Set aside to cool.  Reserve water used for boiling.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, rub them gently to remove the skins; discard skins. 

Dice the beets and put them in a medium bowl or large measuring cup.  Pour enough for the water reserved from boiling the beets to just cover the diced beets.  Pour mixture into a food processor.

In the food processor, blend the beets until very smooth, stopping half way through to scrape the sides.

Use immediately or freeze in ½ cup quantities in small bags.


Enjoy!
Amy

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Loaded Potato Skins


When I made Loaded Baked Potato Soup, one of the final instructions was to scoop out the pulp and discard the skins.  Discard the skins?  What?  The skins are, in my opinion, the best part!  Since I found this to be completely unacceptable, I decided to scoop out a little less pulp, reserve the skins and make a scrumptious appetizer. 


Loaded Potato Skins

4 Baked Potatoes
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
4 tbsp Real Bacon Bits
Olive oil
Sea salt


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

At this time you can pierce your potatoes and bake for 1 hour in the oven or go here for 13 minute microwave instructions.

When potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes in half and scoop out most of the pulp, leaving between 1/8 and ¼ inch of pulp on the sides.  Remember to save that pulp for your Loaded Baked Potato Soup!

Brush both sides of the skins with olive oil.  Place cut side down, and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake for 7 minutes.  Flip the skins and bake for another 7 minutes.

Remove from the oven and sprinkle with cheese and bacon bits.  Serve with sour cream, ranch, BBQ, or plain.

Enjoy!
Amy

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Naked Ravioli


I am always on the lookout for a good pasta recipe, especially one that is quick, easy, and doesn’t have a heavy sauce.  This recipe is called “Naked Ravioli” because all of the goodness that is usually inside the pasta is on the outside.  This makes an oh-so-yummy dish without having to break out your pasta maker (which I don’t have…sad).

In this recipe, you cook your little filling meatballs in boiling water first and remove them, and then add the pasta.  Smart. Move.  All the delicious flavors from the meatballs get into the pasta and you only have to make a very light sauce to get a wonderfully flavorful dish.  Win.


Naked Ravioli
Adapted from Framed Cooks

1 pound ground pork
1 egg
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup whole wheat bread crumbs
2 ½ tsp dried parsley
¼ tsp onion powder
12 oz pasta (I used Wacky Mac Bow Ties)
2 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp fresh rosemary, chopped
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 cup frozen peas


Combine pork, egg, cheese, parsley, bread crumbs, and onion powder.  Roll into small balls, about 1 inch in diameter. 

Bring a large pot of water to boil; add 1 tablespoon of salt.  Cook meatballs in boiling water for 7 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon, cover, and set aside.

In the same water used to boil the meatballs, cook the pasta to al dente.  Add the frozen peas for the last 5 minutes.  Reserve ½ cup of the pasta water.  Drain.

Meanwhile, cook the olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper in a small pot, about 5 minutes.  Whisk in the ½ cup of pasta water.

Toss pasta with the olive oil mixture and meatballs.  Top with grated parmesan cheese and serve.

Serves 4-6

Enjoy!
Amy

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Double Chocolate Cookies



Last week was my son’s 3rd birthday.  Since his cake was enjoyed at his party (the previous weekend), I wanted to make him a special birthday treat.  So I asked him if he’d like some brownies or cookies.  His response: brownie cookies.  Lucky for me, I had a chocolate cookie recipe in mind that satisfied my young son’s brownie cookie birthday wish.  And since it was his birthday, I didn’t even add beets.


Double Chocolate Cookies
Adapted from Annie’s Eats

1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 ¼ cups sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup cocoa powder
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
¼ tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 (12 oz) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine butter and sugar.  Beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Blend in eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Mix in the cocoa powder until well blended.  Add in the flours, salt, and baking powder to the bowl and mix on low until just incorporated.

Fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.  Turn out dough and knead briefly to be sure the ingredients are completely combined.

Use a 2 tbsp cookie scoop to scoop dough on to cookie sheets.  Press each ball of dough lightly to flatten.  Bake 16-20 minutes.  Let cool on baking sheets for 5-10 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely.

Yields: 30 cookies

Enjoy!
Amy

Monday, January 24, 2011

Hearty Lentil Soup


One of my goals this winter is to make more soups.  My secondary goal is to get my 3 year old to try one of my soups sometime, alas, we have yet to accomplish that goal (we’ve made lots of Nutella sandwiches for him).

Lentil soup is new to me.  Actually, lentils in general are new to me, but I really liked them.  Lentils are found alongside the dried beans in the grocery store.  But, unlike the dried bean, lentils do not need to be soaked overnight (bonus!)  Lentils are a wonderful source of fiber and are naturally fat free so these are great if you are watching what you eat.

The lentil soup, with its beef broth and tomato base and all the veggies reminded me of a nice minestrone.  It was a nice cozy meal last week when the high temperature here was -15.  No that’s not a typo, 15 degrees below zero was the high temperature last week (for several days) with windchills in the negative 40’s.  Brrrrrr…..I think I need more soup!


Hearty Lentil Soup
Adapted from Raise Healthy Eaters

1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
2 celery ribs, trimmed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried thyme
Dash of salt
½ tsp black pepper
2 ½ cups crushed tomatoes
4 cups beef or vegetable stock
1/3 cup orange puree (optional)
1 cup dry lentils


In a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper.  Cover pot and turn heat to medium low.  Stir occasionally until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.

Once the vegetables are tender, add the tomatoes, stock, orange puree, and lentils.  Bring soup to a boil; then reduce heat to simmer until lentils are tender; 30-40 minutes.  Serve with crackers or whole wheat bread.

Makes 8 cups of soup, about 4 main dish servings

Enjoy!
Amy

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Easy Homemade Mac & Cheese


My son loves Mac & Cheese, the boxed kind of course, so I thought I’d try a yummy, creamy homemade version to see if he’d like it.  Well, no dice, the silly little guy wouldn’t even try it (have I mentioned he’s a bit picky?)

However, even though my son wouldn’t try it, my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.  It was a nice break from the salty, orange cheese powder from the box.  When I was heating up leftovers the next day (it heats up wonderfully in the microwave, by the way) my mom (who happened to be in town) couldn’t resist having some of her own. 

There is a lot of room for flexibility when making your own Mac & Cheese.  Really, you can just use whatever cheese you have on hand, as long as it equals about a pound in the end.  You could easily use all cheddar or Colby-jack for a more kid-friendly flavor!


Easy Homemade Mac & Cheese
Adapted from Pennies on a Platter

14 oz whole wheat elbow macaroni
¼ lb gruyere cheese, shredded
¼ lb cheddar cheese, shredded
½ lb Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
2 tbsp butter, divided
2 eggs
1 (14 oz) can evaporated skim milk


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cook pasta according to package directions until al dente.

Dot 1 tbsp butter into the bottom of a casserole dish.  Pour half of the cooked pasta into the dish.  Top with half of the cheese.  Dot the remaining 1 tbsp butter on top.  Pour the remaining pasta evenly over the top.  And evenly spread the remaining cheese as the top layer.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and evaporated milk.  Pour mixture evenly over the casserole.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Serves 6-8

Enjoy!
Amy

Friday, January 21, 2011

Super Double Chocolate Cookies


If you have been following my journey for a while, you know that I like to sneak vegetables into my picky little 3 year old any way that I can.  This often involves vegetable purees of sorts and occasionally involves dessert. 

I was looking at a magazine the other day that featured red velvet cookies.  Red velvet cookies sounded like fun, but obscene amounts of red food coloring did not.  So I started researching and found this fun fact:

Did you know that traditionally red velvet cake/cookies/etc were tinted red either by including vinegar to bring out the natural red coloring in cocoa OR by adding beet puree?  Also, these red velvet goodies were more of a brown-red than the bright food coloring red we typically think of when we hear “red velvet”.

Anyway, the words “beet puree” and dessert got my wheels turning and I knew it was experiment time!  These cookies ended up not turning red at all, thus the reason I did not name them red velvet cookies, but were quite scrumptious.  My brother (who knows my tendency to put strange things in desserts) suspected that I had done something to these cookies, but never in a million year would have guessed that it was beets.  One word of warning though, you will NOT want to store these in a ziplock bag or anything completely airtight as you will get a really strong beet smell when you open the bag (my dad refused to eat these after he smelled it).  However, my glass cookie jar was able to dissipate enough of the smell and keep the cookies moist.


Super Double Chocolate Cookies
An Amy Original

½ cup Crisco
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup beet puree (if it is watery from being in the freezer, be sure to strain it a bit first)
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp vanilla
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips


Beat Crisco and sugars together

Add the eggs, beat until very fluffy.

Add the beat puree, cocoa powder, baking soda, and vanilla and mix.  Slowly add in the flour until desired consistency (you may need more or less depending upon how watery your beet puree is).

Stir in chocolate chips.  Cover and refrigerate a couple hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spoon cookies onto a cookie sheet using a 2 tbsp cookie scoop.  Bake 8-10 minutes

Yields: about 30 cookies


Enjoy!
Amy

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rotini with Spinach and Turkey Sausage


Pasta is pretty much fantastic no matter how it is served.  The only downside is that so many pastas are made with a really heavy sauce of sorts (alfredo, anyone?)  While these calories laden sauces are wonderful, thinking about the sheer number of calories gives me heart palpitations.  Cue this next recipe…

It features a super light sauce (just 2 tablespoons of olive oil and no cheese), turkey sausage, spinach and tomatoes all over whole wheat pasta.  It is a healthy and very satisfying alternative to those heavy sauces.  It comes together so quickly that is perfect for any busy weeknight.


Rotini with Spinach and Turkey Sausage
Adapted from Your Homebased Mom

½ lb uncooked whole wheat rotini (or pasta of your choice)
1 ¼ lb spicy turkey sausage links, casings removed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp dry chicken stock
2 cups frozen spinach, thawed
2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
¼ cup slivered almonds
¼ cup shredded parmesan cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions, drain.

Remove sausage from casings and cook in skillet over medium heat until no longer pink.  Drain and set aside.

In the same skillet, sauté garlic in oil for 1-2 minutes.  Stir in chicken stock and sauté spinach for about 2 minutes.

Stir in the cooked sausage and Roma tomatoes.  Stir to combine.

Add chicken mixture to the pasta and stir.  Top with almonds and shredded parmesan.


Serves 4

Enjoy!
Amy

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Super Moist Doctored Cake Mix and Wall-e Cake


Three years ago today, I became a Mommy for the first time.  Being a Mommy is the greatest challenge and greatest joy in my life and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Happy Birthday, Little One!


Lately, the little guy has watched the movie Wall-e nearly everyday (he won’t nap anymore, so during “rest time” he gets to choose a show to watch and can fall asleep if he needs to), so the obvious choice was to make a Wall-e themed cake.

My wonderful husband helped me sketch a bunch of Wall-e’s, and I was able to create a fondant based Wall-e cake for my special little man.


Since we were expecting a lactose intolerant guest at our party, I had the opportunity to try a different kind of cake.  Since the cakes I’ve made in the past (both from scratch and the doctored cake mix) required milk, I decided to try a different, milk free cake.  I ended up doctoring a cake mix, hoping for a nice firm cake that could stand up to decorating.


The cake I made was delicious.  It was super moist and spongy (and the leftovers stayed moist for days).  However, it is not a dense cake.  I was thankful that this was not used to make a tiered cake.  I fear we would have had problems.  However, it was perfect for a simple two layer cake for my little boy’s birthday party.



Super Moist Doctored Cake Mix


1 package of cake mix (any flavor)
            Eggs, oil, and water as indicated on the cake mix

Additionally, add

1 cup all purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup canola oil
2/3 cup water


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease the pans you plan to use (I used two 9-inch pans and they were full)

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Blend on low until ingredients are combined, about one minute.  Scrape the side of the bowl and beat on medium for 2 minutes.  Pour batter into the prepared pans.

Bake at 325 for the time indicated on the cake mix box.  Check the cake.  Continue baking at 5 minutes increments until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  I needed an additional 10 minutes of baking time.

Yield: 6 ½ cup of batter or two full 9-inch pans.



Enjoy!

Amy


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Light Loaded Baked Potato Soup


Other than greasy fries, baked potatoes, especially loaded, are my favorite way to eat potatoes.  In the winter I eat baked potatoes all the time.  So when I came across a recipe for loaded baked potato soup without a million calories, I was so there.  This was all the deliciousness of a loaded baked potato, but in soup form.  Personally, I love broccoli with potatoes, so I added that to the original recipe. 


Light Loaded Baked Potato Soup
Adapted from Ezra Pound Cake

4 medium red potatoes (6 ounces each)
2 tsp olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 ¼ cups fat free chicken broth
3 tbsp all purpose flour
2 cups low fat milk, divided
¼ cup reduced fat sour cream
2 ½ cups broccoli florets (fresh or frozen)
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
6 tbsp bacon bits, divided
1/3 cup shredded Colby jack cheese


Scrub and dry potatoes; pierced them several times with a fork.  Place the potatoes on a microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 13 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Cut potatoes in half and set aside.

While the potatoes cook, heat the oil in a pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and sauté for 3 minutes.  Add broth.

In a small bowl whisk together flour and ½ cup of milk.  Add the mixture to the pot along with the remaining 1 ½ cups of milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring frequently.  Add broccoli, return to a boil stirring frequently.  Cook for 1 minute.

Remove pan from heat.  Stir in sour cream, salt, pepper, and 4 tbsp bacon bits.  Set aside.

Scoop the potato pulp out of the skin and mash it into the soup. Discard skins.

Garnish each serving of soup with cheese and remaining 2 tbsp bacon bits.


Serves 4


Enjoy!
Amy

Monday, January 17, 2011

Rice with Ginger & Carrots


Since I decided to make a new stir fry yesterday, I decided it was also time to experiment with a new rice recipe as well.  I now have a grater, so I was able to tackle that fresh ginger again (thanks, Chris!)  I was very pleased with the results.  It was spicy, but not hot or salty; a delicious complement to any stir fry.  Plus, my oldest son ate some too, and he sure can be picky!


Rice with Ginger & Carrots
An Amy Original

1 ¼ cups rice (uncooked)
2 ½ cups water
1 tsp dry chicken stock
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup onion, diced
1 cup shredded carrots (about 2 carrots)


Combine rice, water, and chicken stock in a pot.  Bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Cook for 18 minutes.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a skillet, add the ginger, garlic, and onion.  Sauté for about 1 minute.  Add the cooked rice and fry lightly, about 5 minutes.  Stir in carrots, cook an additional 2-3 minutes until carrots are tender-crisp.  Serve with stir fry.

Enjoy!
Amy

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Beef, Broccoli and Cashew Stir Fry


Stir fry.  Super versatile.  You can put anything into it and it tastes great.  A variety or sauces, vegetables, and meats!  And you know what?  I have been in a stir-fry rut.  For years (years, people!) I have made my stir fry the same way: chicken, bag of frozen stir fry veggies, store bought teriyaki sauce, dash of red pepper flakes; done.  Now don’t get me wrong, this stir fry is great, but it is just the same old thing.  Not anymore.  I have finally diversified.

I swapped out my chicken for steak, made a sauce, and didn’t use frozen veggies, and the verdict: great!  Though I will still make our same old chicken stir fry, this one is a definite winner!  A word of warning:  I put nearly ½ tsp of cayenne pepper into my stir fry and this makes it very spicy.  If you don’t like spice, just use a dash of the pepper.

Funny story about this dish…

Remember the other day when my son wouldn’t eat pizza?  He totally ate this super spicy stir fry AND asked for more! He even ate a "lil tree flower" (broccoli) for the first time!  Perhaps I just need to make everything super spicy for him.  HHmmmm…..


Beef, Broccoli and Cashew Stir Fry
An Amy Original inspired by Kraft

2 tsp olive oil
1 lb sirloin steak, sliced thin
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 cups broccoli florets
1 cup shredded carrots (about 2 carrots)
¼ cup French Dressing
2 tbsp soy sauce
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper (this is quite spicy, reduce to your tastes)
¼ cup Cashews


Heat the olive oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Add the garlic and the steak; cook about 8 minutes or until steak is fully cooked.

Meanwhile, steam broccoli 3 to 4 minutes until tender-crisp.

Once the steak is cooked, stir in dressing, soy sauce, pepper, and carrots.  Cook for 2 minutes or until heated through, stirring occasionally.  Toss with nuts and broccoli and serve with rice.

Enjoy!
Amy


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